1513 and King Henry VIII is in France fighting over the Pas de Calais. Now the french don’t really want Henry there and so they call in a favour on the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France. Basically if the Scottish King James IV will create a diversion on his border area with England, Henry will have to divert some troops, maybe even rush home to deal with the situation and the French will win back their territory and place the Scottish King on the English throne. James complies. He rides down and takes a few of the Northern Castles, Norham, Chillingham, Berwick. He’s doing well!

But Henry isn’t stupid and he’s not quite that desperate either. He knows how to delegate. He sends the Earl of Surrey (who is quite elderly) up through England to recruit and train men along the way. Surrey succeeds getting most of his troops from Yorkshire. There are many poor farmer’s lads who’ll take the King’s shilling. He marches up and outflanks the Scots near Flodden. James has the high ground at this point but is forced down to Branxton Hill — still a good defensive position. Had James made the English bring the fight to him, things might have been different — who knows? Maybe he was already feeling a bit too pleased with his little self — what with the castles and all. Anyway he attacked. The Scottish had heavy guns but were fighting with unwieldy 18ft pikes. The English mostly fought with bill hooks. (I don’t like to think about that for too long!) The ground between was boggy and the field runs down to a brook called Pallinsburn about a mile away. At the end of the day the field and Pallinsburn was decribed as a ‘river of blood’. 14,000 souls died that day. 10 thousand were Scottish. Flodden was a field too far. It’s a sad place.

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The Bluebell Inn where we stayed is one mile downhill from Flodden — at Pallinsburn, Crookham. I didn’t like to think too much about that either. But I didn’t let it put me off my dinner!

If you want a more indoor and up to date experience of warfare, just 12 miles away in Berwick upon Tweed you will find the hone of the King’s Own Border Regiment.

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Now I’ve been to a few military museums in my time and I liked this one. It has something for everyone — good history, good tableaux, regimental silverware including a Faberge Emu egg! Uniforms old and new, weaponry, an Um Paul pipe carved in South Africa and Sooty 🙂 YEAH! I am so glad Sooty survived Burma aren’t you?! Go visit it. After that you can have lunch and walk the town walls which is a lovely thing to do and affords spectacular scenery — two castles in one shot at low tide — quite a view.

To the right on the headland, Bamburgh Castle and from there along the spit of sand that is covered twice a day by the tide, Lindisfarne Castle as seen from Berwick’s Walls.

Can’t think of a better place to Staycation.